Designer Jennifer Siegal, founder and principal of prefab design firm Office of Mobile Design in Venice, Calif., has been named one of USA Network's 2009 Character Approved Award winners.
The new awards program was created to honor individuals from any creative discipline for their positive influence on American culture. The seven trailblazing "Characters" of the 2009 award were chosen based on their cultural impact, legacy, and persona.
USA Network selected Siegal as a "Character" for her pioneering work in both prefab and sustainable design, citing her decade-long endeavor to change urban and suburban living through home design and her use of recycled and reclaimed materials, such as shipping containers and truck trailers, to reduce waste. Siegal's firm, founded in 1998, concentrates on the concept of mass customization within the prefab building process for homes, schools, and other buildings.
"I've been on a mission to help people rethink the way in which we build our houses, partially dealing with alternative materials, and the size and shape of homes, and alternative energies," Siegal says.
She got hooked on prefab design and portable buildings while working with students in university design/build studios, converting old trailers to portable classrooms. In 2001, Dwell magazine featured an original modular home design Siegal created at the request of then-editor-in-chief Allison Arieff. Most recently, Siegal has completed a partnership with students of Taliesin, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, on the Taliesin Mod.Fab, a 600-square-foot, off-the-grid residence for the desert. The prototype panelized home is part of her own work in developing prefab systems for different regions of the country.
The award was a complete surprise to Siegal. "It makes me feel really proud to be a part of the group they selected—the group is really original and interesting," she says. "It was interesting, too, being the only woman selected."
Each Character Approved winner is being featured in long-form vignettes on USA Network during primetime through March 2009 and also in extended-length webisodes at characterapproved.usanetwork.com or on YouTube. Interest in prefab and modular housing is growing around the United States, but more quickly on the coasts, according to Siegal. She believes her Character Approved vignette and the longer webisode will be useful in spreading her message about personal responsibility, sustainability, and taking small steps to achieve a greater good throughout the middle regions of the country as well.
Siegal has won numerous design and professional awards, including several awards from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture and the Infiniti Design Excellence Award of the Future LA—History Channel Competition in 2006. She also was named to Fast Company magazine's "Masters of Design" list in 2006 and to "America's Best and Brightest" list by Esquire magazine in 2003, and she served as a 2003 Loeb Fellow at Harvard University's School of Design.